The V.I.P.s (1963)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Ensemble Film, Melodrama  |   Release Date - Sep 19, 1963 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 115 min.  |   Countries - Switzerland , United Kingdom , United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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A Grand Hotel set in an airport, The V.I.P.'s is the kind of movie critic Judith Crist calls a "wallow." Terrence Rattigan's screenplay has to work hard just to scratch the surface of his characters and their situations, and even then it rarely rises above the level of elementary soap opera. In other circumstances, this would sink the film, but Rattigan, director Anthony Asquith and everyone else involved understands that V.I.P.'s is really just about surface attributes and giving the audience a little glamour, and perhaps tossing in a few sure-fire plot mechanisms and "big" scenes to keep things moving. It's also about giving wonderful character actress Margaret Rutherford a chance to shine, and this it does in spades. Rutherford, one of the silver screen's most endearing personalities, has played roles like the dotty Duchess numerous times before, but she's as fresh and delightful as ever here, working that slightly mealy mouth of hers over her lines and pouring a great deal of attention into expressing the simplest of thoughts. Maggie Smith is also exceptional, eloquently conveying the care and heartbreak of her character with a lingering glance and keeping her characteristic (and often effective) mannerisms under control. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton -- the reasons for the film's existence and its tremendous financial success -- do what is required of them, namely look glamorous and suffer glossily, but they don't really attempt to rise to another level. The V.I.P's is unsatisfying as great filmmaking, but as soap operatic stargazing, it's quite successful.